Europe needs to make up its mind

On the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the Treaty of Rome, political theorist Jan-Werner Müller assesses the three main visions of the European Union's future. With none commanding majority support, a pragmatic approach to the EU as a kind of “Commonwealth” is the most honest alternative.

The celebrations to mark the 50th anniversary of the Treaty of Rome this month come at an opportune moment. For now is the time for the European Union to call an end to its self-imposed “reflection period” following the rejection of the European Constitution by the French and the Dutch, and make up its mind about the future.

The reflection period has been mostly devoid of actual reflection, and Europe’s leaders have failed to offer Europe’s citizens any new, fundamental vision. So how should a “refounding” (Neubegründung) of Europe – as called for by German Chancellor Angela Merkel in her first parliamentary statement on European policy – be accomplished?

In theory, there are three competing, fundamentally different visions of the EU’s future. Some still take the form of a “state of nation states.” These thinkers – often imprecisely called “Federalists” – refer to the Constitution as a necessary step towards a European federation.

To continue reading, please log in or enter your email address.

To read this article from our archive, please log in or register now. After entering your email, you'll have access to two free articles from our archive every month. For unlimited access to Project Syndicate, subscribe now.


By proceeding, you agree to our Terms of Service and Privacy Policy, which describes the personal data we collect and how we use it.

Log in;

Cookies and Privacy

We use cookies to improve your experience on our website. To find out more, read our updated cookie policy and privacy policy.